The best Samsung smartphones of 2021


All the ‘Best of’ smartphone lists on NextPit

Now even though this year is yet to reach the halfway mark, Samsung has already launched half a dozen handsets. As it still makes sense to pick up some of the older models, shoehorning a candidate as the best Samsung smartphone for a particular category is an extremely challenging thing to do. Smartphone purchases are extremely personal, and a big factor lies in affordability. Hence, we have divided our list of best Samsung handsets into different price tiers.

NextPit’s recommended Samsung smartphones for 2021

For starters, one should always work around one’s budget when looking to pick up a brand new Samsung smartphone. Before we begin, here is one more thing to consider: Just because we’re recommending smartphones in 2021 doesn’t mean we’re going to ignore other older models from previous years. This is especially relevant if you’re on a tight budget, as it would be a waste if you were to discount older models altogether. 

Best 2021 Samsung phones for $1,000

If the experience of buying a smartphone was translated into an RPG, you’d probably max out all of your character’s abilities and stats with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra! As of April 2021, this handset remains the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the Samsung lineup – and is a true flagship smartphone, no doubt about it.

NextPIT Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Noble, chic, and powerful – the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra! / © NextPit

Rating

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Chic design
  • AMOLED display with WQHD+ & 120 Hz refresh rate
  • Exynos 2100 chipset
  • Powerful camera module
  • 10x optical zoom
  • Good battery life
  • OneUI 3.1
  Cons

  • Exynos 2100 not more powerful than Snapdragon 888 SoC
  • Does not include a charger
  • Has no microSD port
  • Fast charging limited to 25 watts
  • S Pen more of an afterthought

Antoine reviewed the Galaxy S21 Ultra, where you can find out all of the reasons to select this handset. In a nutshell, the Galaxy S21 Ultra sits pretty as the king simply because of an extremely modern camera configuration. In addition to an improved 108-megapixel sensor, the phone also boasts an ultra-wide-angle camera and two (!) telephoto cameras.

This allows you to zoom in at 10x magnification without experiencing any significant loss of quality, and if you wish to push things to the very maximum, you will still be able to obtain decent results using Samsung’s 100x space zoom. The cameras are versatile enough to handle a wide variety of situations, and it also includes benefits from all the camera features that Samsung introduced with the S21 series.

samsung galaxy s21 ultra review photo zoom day 1
Zoom, zoom, zoom is the motto on the S21 Ultra! / © NextPit

Apart from the camera, the smartphone simply shines with plenty of power underneath the hood thanks to Samsung’s latest Exynos 2100 SoC. The Exynos 2100 is able to handle 5G networks and has up to 512 GB of internal storage. The battery also packs a powerful punch at 5,000 mAh, allowing it to power the 6.8-inch Super AMOLED display at 120 Hertz without running out of juice by mid-day.

Alternative to the Galaxy S21 Ultra: Galaxy Z Fold 2

If you’re more concerned with attracting attention on the street when choosing a smartphone, you should take a look at Samsung’s range of foldable smartphones. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the latest model to hit the market.It offers a 7.6-inch foldable display and some pretty cool features to boot.

NextPIT Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is a foldable smartphone / © NextPit

Review

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Better one-handed operation
  • Solid hinge
  • Great display
  • Larger external display
  • Intuitive multitasking
  • Powerful Snapdragon 865+ chipset
  Cons

  • Colors captured by the camera are not very good
  • Hybrid zoom with 100x magnification is more of a gimmick
  • Annoying crease in the main display

The triple camera is on par with the Galaxy S20+’s camera, apart from the lower resolution telephoto zoom, enabling it to perform pretty well when it comes to capturing photos. Compared to the first Galaxy Fold, Samsung has also improved the ugly external display, which now boasts of a far more useful 6.23-inches of viewing area.

Foldables still lag behind “normal” smartphones in terms of durability, though, and so it’s quite possible that you’ll get a dent in the plastic display from objects in your pocket. In addition, the price is steep even when it is bundled with a contract or if you are filthy rich. As of April 2021, you will still need to fork out at least $1,199 for the Z Fold 2.

Best 2021 Samsung phones under $1000

Samsung Galaxy S21+

We cannot help but recommend the Samsung Galaxy S21+ if you are looking for a Samsung smartphone for under $1000. While it is true that the NextPit community actually took out their pitchforks at the launch of the Galaxy S21 series and complained that there were so few changes compared to last year’s models, aside from the removal of the microSD card slot (and the charger!), all of the other changes were actually rather sensible. The design in particular is eye-catching.

NextPIT Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
The Galaxy S21+ is arguably one of the smartest smartphones of 2021! / © NextPit

Review

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Brilliant 120 Hz display
  • A fresh design
  • Extremely well built
  • Triple camera module works great most of the time
  • OneUI 3.1 looks good with extended support for updates
  Contra

  • Telephoto camera “cheats” in its performance
  • No microSD memory card slot
  • Battery life is average even with a 4,800 mAh cell
  • No S Pen compatibility
  • Simply too few innovations

The purple-gold color edition, in particular, makes the Galaxy S21+ stand out as a really beautiful smartphone. Add that to the impeccable build quality, a similar high degree of performance courtesy of the Snapdragon 888 SoC (Exynos 2100 in Europe and India) and a nice triple camera setup at the back, and you’ve got quick the total package here. If you have decided on the more affordable Samsung flagship, then you will have to contend with a few shortcomings.

In my review of the Galaxy S21+, the differences in the camera of the Plus model compared to the Ultra model bothered me the most. Like in the S20+, the triple camera is simply “cheating” itself in terms of performance, while the main sensor lags behind with a resolution of 12 megapixels.

Price-wise, however, the Galaxy S21+ was introduced at more than $1,000. As of April 2021, however, I could find the device going for less than $800 at select retailers. At this price point, I can almost promise you that the Galaxy S21+ will keep you happy for years to come.

Alternative to the Galaxy S21+: The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

“Can you give me a little bit more?” I repeat myself here just like how I deal with my butcher at the local supermarket, suggesting the Note 20 Ultra as an alternative for a sub-$1,000 handset. You can pick this bad boy up for $900 to $950 in April 2021, and will certainly obtain plenty of bang for your hard-earned buck. Since the handset has really large dimensions, I decided to relegate it as an alternative.

NextPIT Samsung Galaxy Note Ultra
The Note 20 Ultra still has a classic camera bump! / © NextPit

Review

Bewertung Design und Handling

Pros

  • Well-integrated camera configuration
  • Top-notch stylus performance
  • Great high-end specifications
  • Chic design (new colors!)
  Cons

  • Incredibly expensive
  • Ineffective marketing 
  • European units powered by Exynos chipset

Again, I would point you to the best review of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and will also include other alternatives below.

Other alternatives to the Galaxy S21+:

Best 2021 Samsung phones under $500

Samsung Galaxy A52

With the Galaxy A52, Samsung has given its most popular smartphone-to-date a successor. The mid-range device came with a $349 launch price tag and has really impressive specifications. However, a highlight for devices within this price range would be the guarantee of four years of security updates.

NextPIT Samsung Galaxy A52
The Galaxy A52 is pretty fancy and affordable! / © NextPit

Rating: Not yet reviewed

 

Pros

  • 90 Hertz display
  • Large battery
  • Four years of security updates
  Cons

  • 5G only at additional cost

As an upgrade to its predecessor, there is a 6.5-inch display with a 90-hertz refresh rate, an improved quad-camera setup with 64 megapixels, instead of 48 megapixels resolution in the main sensor, and a larger 4,500 mAh battery capacity. Unfortunately, I have to admit that the smartphone is still being reviewed and hence, I cannot present you with any concrete review results yet. Of course, feel free to ask questions about it in the comments!

Samsung also offers a 5G version of the Galaxy A52, which is more expensive at $499.

Alternative to the Galaxy A52: The Samsung Galaxy A72 (In Europe)

Besides the 5G version, the A52 also has a big brother! The Samsung Galaxy A72 has a larger display at 6.7-inches and offers a dedicated telephoto camera with 8 megapixels and triple optical magnification at the back. In addition, the battery is now longer lasting with 5,000 mAh rating. This phone is yet to be launched in the US- but is on sale in Europe.

NextPIT Samsung Galaxy Note Ultra
With the Galaxy A72, Samsung delivers the A52’s big brother / © NextPit

Rating: Not yet reviewed

 

Pros

  • Telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom
  • Four years of security updates
  Cons

Here, too, you benefit from four years of security updates and thus put a long-lasting smartphone in your pocket “with careful usage”. As of April 2021, you can buy the A72 for just under €430 – whether the surcharge compared to the A52 is worth it or not is pretty much a matter of personal preference.

Best 2021 Samsung phones under $200

Samsung Galaxy A12

A really strange choice that I decided upon for a Samsung under the $200 mark, but do give me a chance to explain. The Galaxy A12 is a really cheap device that costs $105 and won’t blow you away with its hardware specifications. 

Rating: Not yet tested

 

Pros

  • Low price
  • Four years of security updates
  Cons

  • Weak hardware compared to the competition
  • Small battery capacity

Even compared to the best smartphones from other manufacturers that go for less than €200 euros, a 6.5-inch IPS panel, a Mediatek MT6765 Helio P35 SoC and quad cameras don’t seem very impressive. But after picking up the Galaxy A12s, you’ll benefit from four years of security updates which is unheard of at this price.

If you buy a phone for less than $200, you will definitely not get are cutting-edge hardware specs. So if you’re looking for a handset that’s cheap and is good enough to be used over the next few years while benefitting from the latest security and operating system updates, then the Galaxy A12 is a good choice.

The best time to buy smartphones

Depending on when you read this article, the wait for discount promotions or bargain days can be even more worthwhile. These are promotions such as Black Friday, to which there are especially smartphones once again a bit cheaper. I have summarized the dates in the table below.


You might want to wait for these promotion days before buying a mobile phone:
Action Date
Singles Day November 11, 2021
Black Week 23 November to 27 November 2021
Black Friday November 27, 2021
Cyber Monday November 30, 2021

When was this article written?

The selection of these devices was made in April 2021 for a specific reason. Samsung unveiled its first barrage of smartphones for the year with the unveiling of the Galaxy A52, Galaxy A52 5G, and Galaxy A72. More smartphones are expected to follow later in the year, but flagships are off the table for now.

There won’t be any new Note models this year, but maybe Samsung will deliver a foldable device. Otherwise, you can look forward to cheaper entry-level and mid-range devices. In my opinion, it is still not wrong to compile an overview after the first release push.



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